The COVID Productivity Battle - Part I
Updated: Jul 27
I can’t get anything done - I’m exhausted and I don’t know why - I’m so behind on everything - All I want to do is sleep
Sound familiar to your COVID-quarantined-self? How about getting online and seeing your friends post about crushing workouts or fresh baked bread while you can barely get your teeth brushed most days? You are in good company. Ignore the hype and get real for a second. There's a global crisis going on, and we are living in huge amounts of uncertainty.
For most of us, productivity and motivation are low, overwhelm is high, and honestly, the lockdown sucks. On the surface, it seems like we should have more time. We aren’t commuting, we aren’t engaging with the community or doing any of our normal activities. So why do we feel like we can’t get anything done? Why can’t we operate at our normal pace while working from home? Why does parenting seem even harder during this unusual time?
Actually, there's a lot of really good reasons that you feel less productive and more tired, including, but certainly not limited to:
Cleaning and cooking more: Most of us aren’t used to having the whole family home all day, and eating all of our meals in. It now feels like making meals and cleaning the kitchen is a full time job leaving less time and energy for productive work hours.
Childcare: Watching children full time from home without the support of school, daycare, in home care, family, play dates, etc, is exhausting in itself. And for some parents, they have the impossible task of watching their children and working at the same time.
Unsuitable spaces: Working at kitchen tables, on couches, and in bedrooms might be fun for a while, but these living spaces typically aren’t set up for us to operate as our most productive and focused selves.
Loneliness: Most of us are experiencing some degree of loneliness during the Coronavirus lockdown. Loneliness for friends, family, co-workers. Research has shown that loneliness can lead to feelings of exhaustion, isolation, and hopelessness.
Loud inner critic: Without some of our normal distractions, we may be hearing the voice of our mean inner critic more loudly and frequently than before. It might be screaming at us that we aren't accomplishing enough, or that we should be using our time better, or that we're eating too many cookies.
Increased alcohol and substance use: Our increased use of substances during this time may be exhausting our bodies and brains by robbing us of deep sleep, and affecting our brain chemicals.
Job loss: If you have lost your job, you are undoubtedly experiencing fear, worry, and/or anger about the changes to your income and life. Few things are more exhausting than searching for work and worrying about money.
Job insecurity: If you are lucky enough to still have a job today, you may be worried about the future of your job. Or you may have been asked to work reduced hours and take a decrease in pay. This worry saps our energy reserves dry, and leads to less productive work hours.
Increased conflict with others: We are not wired to disconnect from the greater community and isolate with just a few people. We need a village to support our mental health and our primary relationships. Many people find that they have increased conflict with partners, children, and roommates during this time, which is particularly difficult when you’re also working in the same space with them.
Screen fatigue: We are hearing reports of headaches, sore eyes, and sensory overload/exhaustion from being on screens all day for work. Our systems are not designed to engage with technology this much, and it’s taking it’s toll.
Mental adjustment: Very few of us are living through this pandemic without significant changes to our routine, income, plans, daily life, and sense of the world. Our brains need extra energy to adjust and adapt.
Sleep issues: Due to increased symptoms of depression and anxiety during this time, some people are having trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep, while others are sleeping too much.
Worried thoughts: It is exhausting to worry all day. Our brains are dealing with a new and unfamiliar threat with no end or treatment in sight. The part of our brain concerned with survival is in overdrive trying to gain a sense of normalcy and safety, sucking up our finite mental resources.
Depression: Those familiar with depression know that lack of motivation, a heavy feeling in the body, and low productivity are the calling cards of depression. We also know that the pandemic has increased mental health issues including depression and anxiety.
The odds are stacked against us when it comes to getting things done. But since we still need to work, parent, eat, and occasionally brush our teeth, we need to find ways to work with ourselves at limited capacity. Check out our next blog for tips on making peace with your productivity levels and still getting a few things done.
In the meantime, ignore the hyper productive. They are not relevant to you, and their productivity is probably not what it seems. Don't let hashtags like
make you feel bad.